As a former resident of New Orleans for 30 years and a veteran of Katrina, I recently reviewed my pictures and memories of the tragedy approaching its 10th anniversary. It is with tears and pride that I remember the long-lasting event and outcome. I am proud to have been a part of a brave and resilient population that rose from the ashes of destruction and continues to demonstrate courage in recovery.
There were so many heroes who have gone unnamed. Thanks to all of you. You are the core of what makes this country great. At the time of Katrina, I served as the chairman of endodontics at the LSUHSC School of Dentistry in New Orleans. The Health Science system was devastated, including the dental school, which remained closed for two years following the storm. I had an inside view of the beginning of the recovery effort.
Throughout history, there are many examples of leaders who arose following the chaos that results from tragic events. I witnessed and worked with such a leader who rose to the occasion: Ronnie Smith, of Baton Rouge. He served as the vice chancellor for administration and finance for Health Sciences. He was critical in salvaging the system from destruction.
The system was rebuilt from makeshift offices in Baton Rouge to round-the-clock meetings with local, state and federal agencies. Smith assembled a team of people who were able to accomplish tasks that no one in our history had done. There were no models to follow. Every element of the recovery had to be systematically developed and implemented. Smith was the clear leader in orchestrating the recovery for the Health Sciences system.
Today, Smith is retired and living in Baton Rouge with his wife, Susan. He still stays informed about the progress in recovery that he implemented. If you see him, you might just say, “Thanks, Ronnie.”
All of Louisiana should be aware of his incredible contributions.
associate dean, UNLV School of Dental Medicine